Preview: Glasgow Warriors v Ulster

Date published: March 24 2016

Gregor Townsend has named 18 international players who were involved with Scotland over the last couple of months, in the squad to face Ulster in front of a sell-out crowd at Scotstoun.

After being nominated for the Six Nations Player of the Championship award, Stuart Hogg will start at full-back.

Finn Russell has recovered from concussion to start, with club captain Jonny Gray is also fit to make his 50th appearance for the club.

Tommy Seymour and Sean Lamont start on either wing, with a centre pairing of Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar. Henry Pyrgos will operate at scrum-half and Russell is named at fly-half.

Gordon Reid will pack down with Fraser Brown and Sila Puafisi, while Gray makes his first appearance since the win over Racing 92 in January, pairing up with Leone Nakarawa in the engine room.

In the back row Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Josh Strauss are named with Strauss having started for Scotland against France in the recent win at Murrayfield.

Included on the bench is hooker James Malcolm following the announcement that he has signed a two-year professional contract with the club.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Last Friday’s win over Leinster was an important victory for the club following a huge effort from all the players involved.

"Ulster have produced some high quality performances this season and are a top quality team. 

"I’ve always admired their attack shape and they tend to bring out some very good set-piece plays. They are also a very strong defensive side. 

"We've had some tight games with them over the years and we're expecting another tough battle tomorrow.

"We were proud of how our players performed and excelled for Scotland during the RBS 6 Nations and it’s a real boost to have them back with us for the run-in.

"Training has been of high quality this week and you can see the desire of everyone to earn their place in the team."

Meanwhile, Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, has made five changes to the starting team that faced Zebre three weeks ago.

Captain Rob Herring is joined in the front row by Callum Black, who replaces Kyle McCall at loosehead prop and Ricky Lutton is named at tighthead.

Alan O'Connor is among those who utilised the break to return from injury, he replaces Pete Browne in the second row, partnering Franco van der Merwe. Iain Henderson returns to the starting line-up having been out since December with a hamstring injury. He is joined in the back row by Chris Henry and Nick Williams.

Paddy Jackson will make his 100th appearance for his province on Friday and continues his half-back partnership with Ruan Pienaar.

Positional switches result in a new-look backline, with Stuart Olding moving from the centre to full-back and Craig Gilroy returning to the right wing. Rory Scholes moves to the left flank in place of Jacob Stockdale, who is on a down week following his involvement with the Ireland U20 Six Nations campaign.

Stuart McCloskey, who made his debut for Ireland against England during the Six Nations, replaces Stuart Olding at inside centre, Luke Marshall completes the midfield partnership.

Paul Marshall, Sam Windsor and Darren Cave will provide backline cover. Whilst John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andy Warwick, Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy are the forward replacements.

Form: Glasgow Warriors have won their last four PRO12 encounters since Ulster beat them 13-10 in Belfast on 12 February. The Warriors have not lost at Scotstoun in the PRO12 since Round 1 when Scarlets were the visitors. Ulster’s 32-0 victory over Zebre in Belfast in Round 17 of the PRO12 ended a two-game losing run. The Ulstermen’s last five fixtures against Scottish opponents have all been won by the home side on the day. Ulster beat Glasgow 13-10 in Round 14 but have not achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Scotsmen since 2010/11, whilst Ulster’s only previous victory at Scotstoun came in the European Champions Cup in October 2012.

The teams:

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Jonny Gray (c), 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 James Malcolm, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Andy Warwick, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Sam Windsor, 23 Darren Cave

Date: Friday, March 25
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Graeme Wells (Scotland), Cammy Rudkin (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)